Debt bondage forms of modern slavery: UN report

Debt bondage forms of modern slavery: UN report

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Debt bondage remains one of the most prevalent forms of modern slavery in all regions of the world despite even though it is banned by international and most national laws, observed Urmila Bhoola, United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery. “Even though it takes place worldwide across many sectors of the economy, and is a form of enslavement with deep historical roots, debt bondage -also known as bonded labour- is still not universally understood,” Bhoola said during the presentation of her latest report to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) on Thursday.
A message received here from Geneva , there is no authoritative estimate of the number of people enslaved in debt bondage globally, according.
However, the Bhoola pointed out to an estimate of 21 million in forced labour, estimated by the International Labour Organization.
Poverty, the lack of economic alternatives, illiteracy and the discrimination leave the people from minority groups with no other option than to take a loan or advance from employers or recruiters to meet basic needs, in exchange for their work or the work of their families.
“The poor and marginalised, those migrating, trafficked or discriminated against – including women, children, indigenous peoples, and individuals from caste affected communities- are the most impacted, entering into this form of slavery when they have nothing left to give in repayment of debts other than their physical labour,” the human rights expert noted.
People in debt bondage end up working for no wages or wages below the minimum in order to repay the debts contracted or advances received, even though the value of the work they carry out exceeds the amount of their debts.
Furthermore, bonded labourers are often subjected to different forms of abuse, including long working hours, physical and psychological abuse, and violence.
Some of the factors pushing people and families into this form of slavery include structural and systemic inequality, poverty, discrimination, and precarious labour migration.
Weak or non-existent financial and other regulatory frameworks, lack of access to justice, lack of law enforcement and governance as well as corruption are some of the factors that prevent release from bonded labour and rehabilitation of individuals and families trapped in this intergenerational cycle of poverty.
In her report, Bhoola recommends that more must be done to understand debt bondage and outlines how UN Member States should take a varied approach based on universal human rights to eradicate the phenomenon.
“In order to effectively eradicate and prevent this practice, States should develop comprehensive and integrated programmes of action based upon international human rights standards, which address the needs of those affected and eliminates the root causes of such practices,” she stressed.

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